By Sandra Veszi Einhorn
This last year has been unlike any other. Words like “unprecedented” have become part of our daily vocabulary. As a parent who has always hated homework, I was certainly not prepared for my kids to be home all day and to be partnering with their phenomenal teachers on daily learning. We were a screen-free home before the pandemic, and it was quite an adjustment for everyone to suddenly be online all day. Internet issues, online fatigue, lack of social interaction, stress due to uncertainty. Every day, every hour, has been a roller coaster of emotions. Fast forward to a year later, I can reflect on this time and recognize some of the lessons learned and maybe even consider them silver linings.
1. Patience- Kids and parents had to dig deep and find the extra patience needed to survive this pandemic. Every time I got stressed I stopped to think about how this experience impacted my kids. While they don’t have the grownup responsibilities that keep us up at night it is important to acknowledge that their lives have been upended and they are left with many more questions than answers. I tried to be more tuned into behavior changes and adjust the day based on that. If that meant logging off before the day was over or an earlier (or later bedtime), so be it. Though I used to get frustrated with the afternoon meltdown that came out of nowhere, now I am more likely to stay calm and recognize how the uncertainty can lead to frustration, acting out and, of course, the occasional breakdown.
2. Creativity- Was I the only mom who didn’t hoard toilet paper but did collect empty toilet paper rolls? Do you have any idea how many fun projects you can do with them? The possibilities are endless! Those empty Amazon boxes? So many creative things kids can do with everyday objects. Without playdates, after school activities and the usual bag of tricks to keep my kids busy we have been reusing and upcycling just about everything that comes into the house. You can reimagine almost anything you think is trash and, with a quick Google search, have it be an impromptu art project.
3. Gratitude- Having an attitude of gratitude was difficult on some days, especially when we needed it the most. Every night, as I tuck my kids in, I ask them what are they grateful for. Some days it was something really cool that happened (there were a few days of fun of course), while other days we had to dig deep. Maybe it was a FaceTime call with a friend or family member, or maybe it was just recognizing how lucky we are to have internet access and food on the table. So many times, the best part of the day was just being home together, even if it meant mommy didn’t get a break.
4. The Great Outdoors- Elaborating on #2 and #3, we are so lucky to live in paradise! Not just playing outside, though we did that often, we did as much as we could outside. Morning walks, lunch (and even sometimes dinner) was outdoors. You want a snack? Eat it outside. When the internet allowed, the kids even attended class outdoors. Papers occasionally would fly away, but we caught them before it was too late. As much fresh air as possible became one of our COVID mantras.
5. Independence- This time also made me appreciate that, as my girls get older, they could benefit from additional responsibilities. Long gone are the weekday mornings when I prepare them breakfast or get them ready for school. They are tall enough to reach the milk in the fridge and the cereal in the pantry. While limiting the amount of cereal that misses the bowl and falls on the floor seems to have a longer than expected learning curve, I’ve also taught them where the hand vacuum is and how to use it. We’ve talked a lot about personal responsibility, and when I saw that they were taking it seriously they also earned more independence, which for our family meant being able to walk to a friend’s house on the next block, having extra iPad time (limiting their access to websites and apps of course) and being able to decide for themselves how to manage afternoon homework, cleaning up after themselves, and time to play and have fun.
As we look forward to the post-COVID world I am thankful for these lessons learned and am ready to apply them moving forward.
Sandra Veszi Einhorn is the mother of two girls in Hollywood. She is the Executive Director of the Coordinating Council of Broward and the Nonprofit Executive Alliance of Broward.